Week 398: She Moved Through The Fair, by Anon/Padraic Colum

This is in my view one of the most beautiful of all folksongs. It began life as a traditional Irish air of some antiquity, and at least the words of the last verse are traditional; the first three verses are said to have been composed by the Irish poet Padraic Colum, though again based to some extent on traditional lyrics. Colum definitely added the third verse, though, to make it clear, he said, that the bride had died before her wedding-day: this verse seems a bit redundant and is often omitted in performance.

It has been covered by countless professional folk singers, usually with an instrumental accompaniment. Yet one of the most moving versions I have ever heard was an a cappella performance by an unnamed young woman in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, part of a remembrance service for victims of the Omagh bombing, as featured in the BBC’s ‘Soul Music’ series which devotes a whole program to the song.

She Moved Through The Fair

My young love said to me, ‘My mother won’t mind
And my father won’t slight you for your lack of kind’
And she stepped away from me and this she did say:
‘It will not be long, love, till our wedding day’

She stepped away from me and she moved through the fair
And fondly I watched her move here and move there
Until she turned homeward with one star awake
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake

All of the people were saying, ‘No two ever wed,
But one had a sorrow that never was said’,
But she smiled as she passed me with her goods and her gear
And that was the last time that I saw my dear.

Last night she came to me, my young love came in,
So softly she entered her feet made no din
And she laid her hand on me and this she did say
‘It will not be long, love, ’til our wedding day’

Anon/Padraic Colum

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